MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2014
BY- KITSEPILE NYATHI
Twelve Ethiopian illegal immigrants have told a Zimbabwean court that they walked for nine months to the southern African country escaping religious tensions in the Horn of Africa.
The 12 were arrested late last year in the second city of Bulawayo and their trial was delayed by lack of an interpreter who understands their Amhari language.
On Friday they were sentenced to three months in prison, which were wholly suspended for five years on condition they do not remain in Zimbabwe without proper documentation.
“Your Worship, I walked for nine months to Zimbabwe because of religious tensions in my country. I was hoping to get peace and job opportunities,” one of the group members said.
“My parents were killed while I watched and they burnt our farm which was our only means of survival.
“We came here seeking asylum because life had become so difficult in Ethiopia.”
The group signed an admission of guilt where they begged the authorities to grant them refugee status.
“This letter serves as an admission of guilt and request for refugee status.
There is a social and political unrest in the region where we come from,” reads part of the letter.
“We pray for help because our lives are under threat. We fled to this country because of this and we walked for nine months on the road looking for a stable environment.
“We therefore seek state assistance in solving our problem.”
NO MONEY, NO FINES
The magistrate Mr Abedinico Ndebele said it would be a waste of money to fine the immigrants as they had no money.
“This court understands that there is instability in your country and that most of you are young people who entered Zimbabwe for the first time,” Mr Ndebele said.
“It was considered that the accused persons walked for nine months to get here.
“Therefore there is no need for us to fine you or put you in prison because you have been in remand for almost three months now. You can go but do not commit such an offence again”
The group was arrested on December 4, 2013 while hiding a house in Bulawayo.